Is it Illegal to Pump Your Own Septic Tank? Reasons Explained


Your septic tank is in a huge mess, and you are confused about what to do next. You are seriously considering pumping the septic tank on your own for two reasons. Either you feel septic tank pumping companies are too expensive, or for some reason, the work appears too simple to outsource. You get even more confused just thinking about the legal consequences of the exercise.

So, is it illegal to pump your own septic tank? In some states, yes. Some states — such as the state of Florida — demand that septic pump-outs be undertaken only by registered and permitted septic tank contractors. In other states, the law is not entirely clear about the illegality of the very act of pumping, but there are huge fines and penalties or even jail time if you do not dispose of the waste according to the law.

That’s because the waste is EPA-controlled, and improper disposal of it is considered an endangerment to people’s health and lives. It is essential to know the legal consequences associated with pumping septic tanks. Read on to educate yourself. You do not want to be on the wrong side of the law.

How to Pump Your Own Septic Tank Without Breaking the Law

Assuming your state does not have strict regulations on the very act of pumping, then you can at least handle the pumping part. Nevertheless, that does not mean you are exempted from exercising the utmost caution when going about the exercise.

Firstly, you must be aware of how the septic tank works as well as the correct procedure for pumping it.

Numerous online resources cover this process. Nevertheless, a higher level of skill is required to ensure you not only do not cause any severe damage to the septic tank, but also do not endanger your life in the process.

Doing this job right would also mean you use the correct pump. For instance, a proper-sized trash pump or sludge pump can get the job done.

To avoid breaking the law, let a licensed septic contractor handle the treatment and disposal of the waste. They must have the necessary licenses and permits, especially those on wastewater treatment.

Note that a few states require septic tank pumping companies to submit reports to the state DNR (Department of Natural Resources). Therefore, if they spot any problems — including those resulting from your own messing — you can be sure that they will report to the DNR. Prepare to receive unpleasant demands if this happens.

If this workaround sounds like too much for you, then perhaps your best bet would be to hire a reputable septic tank contractor to do the job for you. The service costs between $150 and $500 — depending on several factors.

That is a fair price because it would be a couple of years before you need it done again. Besides, the fines and penalties you will have to settle if found guilty of breaking the law will result in much higher expenses.

Legal Consequences for Pumping Your Own Septic Tank

In some states, such as Florida, the very act of pumping is illegal and is punishable by law. But in other states where the law is not entirely clear about the very act of pumping, improper disposal of the waste will attract huge fines and penalties.

What is funny about this is that the legal fees for illegally pumping your own septic tank are likely to exceed that of hiring a reputable septic tank contractor.

There have been several cases, such as this one, where those involved in the negligent disposal of waste have been fined up to $25,000. The figure could rise, depending on the gravity of the offense. There have even been cases that have attracted a jail time of up to 12 months.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) —as well as other institutions — does not take this matter lightly, hence the huge fines and penalties. The argument is that such actions endanger the health and lives of other people.

Back in 2018, Carlos Chavez — a septic tank service owner — was charged with illegally dumping over 3,000 gallons of raw sewage. He faced over 16 years in prison. That shows the seriousness with which the authorities take such an offense.

Furthermore, he put the health of his neighbors at risk. His neighbors had earlier complained about discovering fecal matter and E. coli in their drinking water. All this, including the consistent backups of the neighbors’ sewage system, could be attributed to the carelessness with which Charvez disposed of his the waste he collected.

If you are not ready to risk spending a lot of money on legal fees or going to prison for negligent disposal of sewage, then you are better off not attempting to pump your own septic tank and improperly disposing of the waste.

Repercussions for Pumping Septic Tank Into a Yard

Pumping septic tanks into people‘s yards is also an offense. It is even worse when you are closely neighboring many people or when you are dumping the waste on someone else’s property.

In such a case, your neighbors are protected by the law, and they are free to turn you in. The authorities will then investigate the issue and ascertain whether it is true or false. Depending on the evidence presented in court and the effects of your actions, you are likely to fork out plenty of cash for fines and penalties.

Sometimes the cause of sewage leakage could be unintentional. For instance, it could result from a septic system failure. The signs for this kind of failure are listed here. Even that is punishable by law. Therefore, it is critical to have your septic system investigated so that waste does not leak to the yard.

These kinds of cases are common, and the consequences for them are equally severe.

In addition to contaminating drinking water, the smell emanating from waste dumped in the yard is also unbearable. Talk about polluting the environment. Such a situation is a guarantee for constant quarrels with your neighbors.

They will eventually report you to the authorities, but before that, some of them will try to give you a piece of their mind. You can be sure of not having peace of mind while living under such conditions. That would neither be pleasant for you nor your neighbors.

Abiding by the proper procedure for the disposal of waste is in everyone’s best interest.

How to Hire the Best Septic Tank Cleaner to Pump Your Septic Pump Legally

If the time to empty your septic tank arrives, and you cannot do it yourself because circumventing the law — so as to pump the septic tank on your own— has proven to be a headache, then the best alternative would be to hire a reputable septic tank pumping company to do the work for you.

That way, you can rest easy knowing that the authorities will not come knocking on your door anytime soon. You would also not be worried about the septic system getting damaged, and the waste leaking out into the yard.

But that is only assuming the contractor you have chosen to work with is a real professional, and they are certain about what they are doing.

It would be sad to have a contractor take your hard-earned money then do a messy job. You will be forced to settle hefty fines and penalties, on top of the already expensive septic tank pumping fees.

It is only fair, therefore, that you know what to look for when looking to hire a septic tank cleaner.

For starters, you have to make sure they have all the necessary licenses and permits. For instance, they have to be licensed to carry out wastewater treatment operations.

Hiring a certified and licensed septic contractor also means that you will be selecting someone who has a deeper understanding of the architecture and the inner workings of your septic tank.

Final Thoughts

Apart from merely pumping the tank, they will also examine your drain field and inform you whether or not your entire septic system functions properly. Consequently, you will get to understand any potential issues beforehand as well as the necessary maintenance procedures.

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